Scream Factory delivers The Critters Collection to Blu-ray with the first four feature films that feature the Krites. Critters, Critters 2: The Main Course, Critters 3 (starring a 16-year old Leonardo DiCaprio in his first feature film debut), and Critters 4 (the one that took place in outer space) are all included in this collection that focuses on a bloodthirsty alien race of furballs with teeth that have one mission - to eat fresh raw meat of any kind - mainly humans. There are new video transfers, new DTS-HD audio tracks, and over 200 minutes of brand new bonus features that bring back some of the cast and crew to discuss making the movies. This is one fantastic horror box set from Scream Factory. Highly Recommended!
When talking about the greatest film directors, there's one name that seems to be left off the list every time. That name is Stephen Herek. While Herek may not have a personal visual stamp similar to Kubrick or Spielberg, his films are certainly just as memorable, including Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead, The Mighty Ducks, and Mr. Holland's Opus to just name a few. Not exactly a light-weight in the film industry. Herek's first time in the director's chair though was for the 1986 film Critters, a small horror movie that has spawned four sequels and a tv series so far. It's easy to see why Herek was offered numerous big Hollywood directing gigs after Critters was a success - which led to an even bigger success on home video and launched the film to cult icon status. The film is a ton of fun and a great mix of genuine horror, comedy, and thrills from start to finish - not to mention the killer soundtrack with one of the greatest songs made for a movie called "Power of the Night".
There were some giant ambitions going into making Critters, as it starts out in a Star Wars-like saga in space where multitudes of different aliens, technology, and spaceships are traveling the galaxy. Unfortunately, most of it is only mentioned in passing but could have a humongous backstory with a galaxy-sized federation of species keeping the peace throughout space. One species known as the Krites or Critters have stolen the fastest ship in the galaxy with enough fuel to cross the universe several times over.
These Krites only have one thing in mind - food. Meaty, blood-red food of any kind, which leads them to land on Earth, specifically on the Brown family farm in a rural Kansas town. Life is good for the Brown family where the father Jay fixes cars for the locals, his wife Helen (Dee Wallace) is a homemaker, and their kids, the teenage April who loves the new boy from the city (Billy Zane), and their son Brad (Scott Grimes), who has a penchant for fireworks and blowing things up.
Sooner than later, the cattle on the farm are gruesomely eaten and start attacking the family, but viciously biting them and shooting poisonous darts from their furry bodies. Luckily for this small town, there is outer space help on the way in the form of some futuristic shape-shifting bounty hunters with giant guns. One bounty hunter takes the form of a rock n' roll star named Johnny Steele (Terrence Mann) and the other takes many shapes of the Kansas residents, including the town drunk Charlie (Don Opper). From here, the bounty hunters go through town looking for the Krites who have cornered the Brown family inside their house, virtually taking out everyone except for the young Brad who is brave, smart, and excited to kill any critters that cross his path.
As the film goes on, it's subtlety revealed that these Krites can grow in size, have their own language complete with English subtitles for comedic effect, and can organize to decimate the human race quickly. There's also some great sci-fi technology used and explored in the movie that is never really given a decent amount of time to breathe, but in later films is touched upon. Again, this small-budget horror film had big sights and accomplished them all flawlessly. The performances are fantastic with some standout role going to the funny horror icon Lin Shaye as police secretary Sally and M. Emmett Walsh as Sherrif Harv.
The pitch-perfect score by David Newman is outstanding with some genuine thrilling tracks, mixed with the rock song mentioned above and a Critter Skitter track that evokes the early 90's pop in the best way. Critters has really stood the test of time and are no doubt the scariest film of the bunch. It's terrifying, gory, and funny all at the same time. There's a sense of pure nostalgia with this film, being an 80's movie, but it feels timeless and continues to entertain new generations today.
After the hype and success of Critters, New Line Cinema greenlit the sequel Critters 2: The Main Course, set two years after the original film, and subsequently released in theaters two years later in 1988. The film brings back most of the original actors to reprise their roles in a new thrilling adventure in the small Kansas town where Critters are still on Earth about to wreak havoc at Easter time. Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers, *batteries not included) is sitting in the director's chair this time and promotes a sillier and darker comedy film rather than a straight-up horror movie. At the time, this sequel wasn't well-liked, but as time has passed, Critters 2: The Main Course is quite brilliant, funny, and highly entertaining - complete with a naked Playboy bunny as a bounty hunter.
Two years after the events of Critters, Brad (Grimes) comes back to town to see his grandmother. It's not mentioned what happened to his immediate family, but Brad is now an older teenager and is mocked and laughed at in town due to being "the boy who cried critter". Being a small town, the newspaper wants to do a story on him and hear his side of the tale. Meanwhile, in outer space, the bounty hunters are busy taking out some nasty aliens on different plants with the help of their human counterpart Charlie from the first film who is struggling with his self-esteem on being an actual bounty hunter. The trio receives word that critters are still on Earth, which puts them back in Kansas to help Brad fight off another batch of bloody thirsty furballs.
Terrence Mann is still playing a bounty hunter, but his partner now has seen a Playboy centerfold and shapeshift into the nude centerfold complete with magazine staple. That's just one of the funnier and sillier elements of this sequel. What could have been a straight-up horror film with gory carnage turns into a comical vision of terror as the little furry critters have a field day at a local burger joint, and an unhappy sheriff deputy dressed as the Easter Bunny takes two hungry critters to the stomach. This all culminates with the Krites forming one giant rolling ball of fury and a giant explosion, along with Charlie finding his courage.
There's a lot more going on with this sequel than meets the eye, including some more space travel, alien life forms, and explanations on the space council keeping the peace. Inner conflicts of courage, loyalty, and friendship are also explored with blood splattered on all these themes. WIth some hilarious one-liners, a little bit of nudity, and some funny Krite dialogue - Critters 2: The Main Course still holds up perfectly. Plus the Hungry Heifer jingle is quite catchy and one of the funnier bits in the franchise.
Three years after Critters 2: The Main Course, new Line Cinema still had more stories to tell with the Critters franchise, even though the second film didn't make fantastic returns. it did, however, gain a huge fanbase on home video and was shot up to cult status with fans clamoring for more Krites. In 1991, Critters 3 was shot back to back with Critters 4 which both were heading straight to home video. There are two big elements to Critters 3. One is bringing the teeth-filled furballs from rural Kansas to a big city full of skyscrapers and the other being the first feature film for Leonardo DiCaprio. Critters 3 isn't the best film in the franchise, but it can hold its own and has some great elements going for it, given the extremely low budget that had to be shared with Critters 4.
In the director's chair this time around is Kristine Peterson (assistant director on Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Tremors, and Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child), who tells the tale of two young siblings Annie and Johnny who are still grieving the death of their mother. Their father Clifford has been battling his own demons and has been quite inattentive to his children since his wife's passing. On a vacation road trip, they get a flat tire, which is where the remaining Krites hitch a ride in their vehicle to the big city, but not before Charlie (from the previous films), warns them about critters. This is where the family crosses paths with Josh (DiCaprio), who is the son of the evil landlord of the family's apartment building, where all are to be evicted for a big profit.
Soon after they arrive, the Krites reveal themselves and start eating and killing their way through the tenants of the building, where Josh, Annie, and her family try and make it to the roof for survival. At the end of the film, Kristine showcases a big cliffhanger where Charlie the bounty hunter shows up to kill the last two Krites but is interrupted by his partner via hologram saying these are the last two critters in existence and according to space law, they must be preserved no matter how dangerous. Cut to black and cue up Critters 4.
Krites in the big city is a good concept with some great kill scenes, some. mildly amusing moments, and an early performance from DiCaprio. In fact, Leo was 16 at the time and was six years prior to Titanic, which is when he shot to superstardom. He turns in a good performance here and it can be seen just how nuanced he was even in 1991 with a small-budget horror movie. Critters 3 doesn't have the big bad scares of even some of the hilarious humor that the previous two films possess, but that's mostly due to an extremely low budget where Kristine did the best she could with what was given to her. The film is shot beautifully, but the story as a whole just isn't there with the exception of the final few minutes.
One year later after the release of Critters 3, New Line Cinema released Critters 4 on home video that takes place seconds after Critters 3. It's unarguably the worst Critters film in the entire franchise for several reasons, including a lack of Critters on screen, a dull human conflict, an extremely low budget, and no fun whatsoever that was displayed in the first two films. It seemed like money ran out and instead of going for something entertaining and fun, the production studio and director Rupert Harvey just had to finish something and turn it in at the last minute. The result is Critters 4: Innnnn Spaaaaaaaace.
As Critters 3 ended with Charlie having to send the last two Krite eggs into space for preservation, Charlie accidentally locks himself inside the capsule hurling himself and the eggs into space for several decades. In the year 2045, the capsule is found by a space station, made up of a ragtag crew including Brad Douriff (voice of Chucky in Child's Play) and Angela Bassett (Black Panther), who are under orders from an original bounty hunter (Terrence Mann), now a leader to bring back Charlie and the Krites. Out of curiosity, the crew opens the capsule and out pops Charlie and the critters who begin to multiply and kill everyone on board. It's basically the same Critters story, but instead of on a farm or a city building, it's now set in space in the future.
One of the fatal flaws of the film is that there are really no Krites in the movie. In fact, the murderous furballs don't show up until around 40 minutes into the movie, and then it's only for a few seconds. After an hour into Critters 4 is when they first strike and kill, and it's mediocre at best. This fourth sequel never picks up any thrilling pace and is more concerned with the human emotion of going back to Earth and dealing with this intergalactic space counsel, leaving the favored critters on the back burner. This is a huge disappointment for any fans of the franchise. The title character and the monster that everyone has come to love only has a couple of minutes of screen time here, none of it being worthwhile. This was probably due to the extremely low budget, but luckily the production designer made the space station look realistic and dazzling for the most part.
Performances are decent, but it looks like everyone is phoning their character in, as they all want to put this series to bed. This was allegedly going to be the last film, and it was for a number of years until recently, but instead of going out with a bang with complete fun carnage from hundred of Critters, it went out with a slight whimper with almost zero footage of the furry beasts that everyone came to enjoy over the years. It's a shame, but luckily there was a recent SyFy sequel and a tv series that launched the Krites into good orbit again.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Critters Collection devours its way to Blu-ray inside a box set from Scream Factory. The four discs are separately housed in their respective hard, blue plastic cases, each with their own individual original poster artwork. The outer cardboard box that holds all the Blu-ray cases together features some bland new artwork of the Krites themselves. It's a shame that there is no new, excellent artwork made for any of these films. There is also no booklet or inserts here either.
Critters comes with a new 2K scan from its original film elements into a 1080p transfer in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The result is a great look image with some sharp detail in well-lit sequences and a natural yet rustic color palette. The film as a whole still has its nostalgic and filmic image, complete with a good layer of film grain that doesn't really fluctuate. This gives the image a softer look to it, but that's not bad in this case, because most of the film takes place during the night time or in low light situations, where different lighting schemes are hatched throughout the farm that gives a glimpse at the carnage that the Krites bestow onto their victims. Being a PG-13 film, there was no need to showcase intense gore. This video presentation accentuates perfectly the bite wounds, practical effects of bodily harm, and more. Individual pieces of hay, fur on the critters themselves, as well as their skin textures all look amazing here.
Closeups reveal even more nuanced detail in the actor's faces and on the creature's skin. The bout hunter's wardrobe reveals all the shiny materials and cloth textures perfectly. The colors in the daytime are bright, vibrant, mixed with some light pastels on the farm. At night time, the image turns to a steely blue tint that allows the Critter's bright red eyes to pop right off-screen. A mix or other neon bar signs at the bowling alley and some of the green ooze from the Krites look good here. Black levels are consistently deep and inky and the skin tones are natural. There are no major issues with banding, aliasing, or video noise here.
Critters 2: The Main Course also receives a new 2K scan from the original elements of the film into a 1080p HD transfer in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Much more of the rural town is featured in this sequel which gives way to some natural, antique color palettes. There is an abundance of browns and oranges on the buildings, especially at the Hungry Heifer that mixes well with the jet black Krites and their glowing red eyes. Exterior shots showcase the green and yellow pastures and grass around as well. Costumes make for the biggest leap into primary colors with blues, pinks, and greens. The night time climax with the big Critter rolling thunder ball looks decent enough with some slight variations in the colors of the Critters being gray, black, and brown.
Brad's red hair and the orange like bounty hunter suits all stick out nicely. The detail is sharp and vivid, revealing even more detail in the Krites this time around since there are some big sequences during the daytime to really get a glimpse of their furry bodies, especially the one that is boiled alive. Black levels are deep, skin tones are natural, and there are no big issues with any video compression problems, minus some slight flickering in the opening credits.
Critters 3 does not come with the new 2K scans that the previous two films have. Shout Factory has done its best to upgrade the image, which they have, but it can only go so far. The early 90s certainly had a style, mostly consisting of warm, hot colors, which is what most of the cast is dressed in here. The color palette is very warm with tons of oranges, reds, pinks, and a few blues.
The Critters themselves still have a jet black look with some gooey green slime for blood along with some red blood that pops every time it's thrown on the screen. The detail is enhanced slightly with some good looking closeups of the actor's faces and Krites, but other than that, the film is rather soft. There is a layer of film grain that seems static and never goes along with the moving picture itself, which is a bummer. There are still some dirt, scratches, and warped frames here and there, but other than that, the image is still intact.
Critters 4 also doesn't come with the new 2K transfer, but again, Shout Factory does what they can with this Blu-ray 1080p image. Colors look good for what the are, but there is not primary color palette in space. All is dark, muted, and vague with tons of grays, blacks, silvers, and some blues. Some of the wardrobes reveal some slight yellow and reds, but again, a lot of it takes place under low light sequences, so all color is muted.
The detail isn't exactly sharp either, however, under the right lighting conditions, there are some decent closeups with individual hairs and fur on the actors and Critter puppets themselves. The set design also gives way to some metal and realistic textures of a space station. The film grain here is also at a standstill and never flows with the moving image. Black levels are a bit murky too and the skin tones are muted. This is not the best looking video presentation.
This film comes with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track that has some good elements to it. This audio mix doesn't exactly make good use of all the surround speakers on a consistent basis though. Only big action moments serve up the entire speaker system with a boisterous sound, including spaceship flybys, explosions, gun blasts, and large musical cues. Other than those few moments, most of the audio action is on the front speakers.
There is some decent low end of bass that rumbles during the larger moments, but never are they rocky. The musical score and song selection always evoke the 80's rock spirit and keep in line with the terror and suspense of the movie. Dialogue is clean and easy to understand in all circumstances with other sound effects coming across as robust and loud with good directionality.
Part 2 comes with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix and is quite energetic from start to finish. Sound effects are loud and strong, always holding their own with some front-end directionality of a ship flying over or a when a Krite attack is about to happen. Sounds of small explosions, vehicles driving by, and people yelling are all wonderful.
The burger jingle and amazing score all add to the suspense and comedy of the film. The soundtrack kicks into gear during the heavier action sequences, especially when the large Critter ball is formed where a small low end creeps up with some heft behind it. Dialogue is always clean and easy to follow along with, free of any audio issues.
The third film also comes with a DTS-HD 2.0 stereo mix that barely gets the done. The audio is softer sounding and doesn't pack as much grit or power as The Main Course does, due to a straight-to-home-video release. Re-mixing this audio wasn't a high priority. Still, there are some smaller sound effects of city life, apartment building effects, and more.
Ambient noises of vehicles passing by, car horns, and people walking and talking can be heard in the background ever so often. Krite noises pick up the volume a little bit and the carnage is the spotlight for sure on this track. The music cues are forgettable but are heavier in nature when action sequences begin. The low end shows its head when spaceships are around or there is a sci-fi tech gadget being used.
The fourth and final film in this Collection comes with another DTS-HD 2.0 stereo track and maybe the worst sounding one in the set. It wouldn't be the worst audio due to problems or issues with the sounds itself, but rather the lack of action or anything happening in the film. Most of the audio is comprised of the character talking to one another in soft voices with the occasional yelling.
Music cues are forgettable again, but there's an added techno and synth-style to it to signify the future and space. Ambient noises of the space station, buttons beeping and the occasional Krite attack does have a little merit, but nothing is loud or even packs a punch here. It's a rather soft sounding audio track from its source.
There are over 271 minutes of bonus material included in this collection both new and old, along with brand new commentary tracks with some of the cast and crew. The new retrospective interviews are all top-notch and candid as well. Not all actors and filmmakers have returned here, including Scott Grimes who played Brad in the first two films. These are all must-see extras.
The Critters franchise is a fantastic set of movies, even if the fourth film misses the mark by a long shot. These little deadly furballs entered the hearts and minds of many a horror fan for years and have been permanently cemented into the cult icon zeitgeist forever. Scream Factory's presentation of all four films is great with new audio tracks two new great-looking HD transfers and a wealthy amount of new bonus material. This is a great collection from Scream Factory. Highly Recommended!